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October 21, 2016
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Commentary: Czech Police beat people and expel them instead of "helping and protecting"

Prague, 15.12.2014 22:00, (ROMEA)
The demonstration to save the Klinika center on 13 December 2014 in Prague was attended by at least 800 people. (PHOTO:  Saša Uhlová)
The demonstration to save the Klinika center on 13 December 2014 in Prague was attended by at least 800 people. (PHOTO: Saša Uhlová)

What the Czech Police did on Saturday after the demonstration to save the Klinika Autonomous Cultural and Social Center looked like a very absurd performance taken from a documentary film about police brutality against demonstrators before the events of 1989. Police unnecessarily beat people up and shouted vulgar curses at the peaceful demonstrators, many of whom were girls.

Whose beastly idea was it to send an anti-extremist unit out against peaceful young people who were behaving properly? If anyone was behaving like extremists, it was the mentally unstable, rampaging, shouting riot police with their sadistic tastes.    

It certainly seemed that many of the police were in dire need of visiting a clinic themselves, and it would be best if it were a psychiatric one. The officers behaved as if they were insane.

Their behavior was angry, bad, dangerous and stupid. Their intervention made no sense because it occurred when the majority of participants had already dispersed and when the organizers of the easygoing demonstration had officially ended it - after happily and peacefully, to the sound of dogs barking, music, and small children chattering in their prams, marching through the Prague neighborhood of Žižkov.

People were standing around in a park talking in small groups, and here and there laughter could be heard, as well as chants of "We Won't Give up Klinika!" The atmosphere was like a holiday, very positive, and everyone was praising how the demonstration had been a success, in that more people than anticipated had attended.

Had it been a thousand, 1 500, 1 800? That many people are often not attracted to events with a political focus of republic-wide significance, and here it had just been about a local problem:  Warning of the state's "Turkish-style" management of real estate, specifically, the dilapidated building of the polyclinic that has been abandoned for five years, a place where drug addicts and homeless people used to hang out and sleep.

The "extremism" of the small group of young people - who have received support from several hundred sympathizers in recent days - consisted of their having cleaned up the litter-strewn building at their own expense, transporting the garbage away in containers for which they paid, and then bringing life to the building for the next 10 days. There were concerts, exhibitions, film screenings, lectures, nonconformist poetry evenings, and primariy unplanned debates and meetings drawing older people from the neighborhood, with one grandmother bringing a cake and other enthusiasts bringing an enormous pot of soup.

Everyone treated one another with care, friendship and helpfulness - to experience the beautiful atmosphere of solidarity, free of aggression, boorishness,nervousness and stupidity was quite something! Ten days later, the police expelled everyone and blocked entry to the building.

Saturday's demonstration was meant to draw attention to that fact. Then there was blood, the blunt blows of truncheons, chaos, curses, girls screaming, mute amazement, shouting, and the vulgar abuse of the robocops.

Police officers pushed protest organizer Arnošt Novák to the ground, sat on him, and beat his head and back when he was unable to defend himself. After the unexpected intervention, several people lay injured on the muddy grass.

Two were taken by ambulance to hospital. The rest were in shock.

The phrase "police state" had been viewed by most people as a bit of an exaggerated metaphor until that moment. However, it took only a moment for them to become painfully aware how easily and rapidly that phrase can become reality.

Ondřej Mrázek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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